Thursday, February 1, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, February 1, 2001

Daughter no longer a child, she finds

By Linda Tagawa
Special to The Advertiser

When does a parent stop being a parent? Never! I think the key to this whole parenting thing, however, is to know that your child will always be your child ... but not always be a child.

I’ve been wrestling with this for years; with my children grown and out in the world. There are days when I think I have it wired, then something jolts me into the realization that I still have a ways to go. I happened just the other day during a phone conversation with my youngest child, who is a senior in college ...

"So, how are your classes?" I was really interested in her plans after graduation.


"So have you applied to graduate school?"

"Only one."

"One?" I was puzzled.

I imagined her to be applying to several graduate schools and continued, "OK ... so what are your plans if you don’t get into that one school?" My words were laced with sarcasm.

"I’m thinking of working."

"You’re thinking of what?"

You get the idea of the direction this conversation was going? Well, you are absolutely correct. It went nowhere and ended with some pretty terse words being flung back and forth.

"What are you trying to tell me?" I could hear the frustration behind her words. "What did you expect me to be doing? Did you expect me to be like Lopaka? Or maybe Keoni? What if I am not sure? Why do I have to be like everyone else? Why can’t you just accept me for who I am and just support me?"

That was the end of a conversation that began quite pleasantly.

I called her sister to see if she knew what was going on with Ann.

"She has her own ideas of what she wants to do. She’s a grown woman, Ma. You don’t own her, and when you think about it, she really doesn’t owe you an explanation. She’s no longer a child."

I stopped dead in my tracks.

I hadn’t realized how my words, which began with a sincere interest, had eventually flooded the conversation with my own agenda, and turned meddlesome and condescending. I had missed a prime opportunity to hear the uncertainty in her voice, her fear of her unknown future and the path she is tentatively choosing to explore.

Instead I tried to "fix" her uncertainty. I wanted to tell her what I thought was the "best" thing to do. I forgot that she is not a child.

I’m still learning that Ann will always be my child, but is no longer a child. I reached for the phone and dialed her number to say so.

Linda Tagawa, of Pearl City, is a schoolteacher and has four grown children.

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